Goblin Slayer

Goblin Slayer

“I’m not saving the world. I just kill goblins.” In a world of fantasy, adventurers come far and wide to join the Guild, in order to complete contracts and gain rewards for whatever jobs are available. Full of aspirations, an inexperienced priestess joins her first adventuring party, but comes into danger after her first adventurer contract involving goblins goes horribly wrong. After the rest of her party is wiped out, she is saved by a man known as Goblin Slayer, an adventurer whose only purpose is the eradication of goblins with extreme prejudice.

Goblin Slayer left a lasting impression on me… mostly because it has one of the most shocking first episodes that I’ve seen from an anime in a long time. I was expecting some standard fantasy anime fare with some mildly comical moments and instead I got horror with a generous side of ultra-violence. Not what I expected whilst I was sipping my morning tea before work. It was rather disturbing in a kind of Berserk-esque way and I had to wonder what the motive was in behind it. Part of me, the more cynical side of me, saw it as fetishy fan-service whilst another part was kind of hoping that there was a reason behind being so shocked at such an early juncture. Either way, I can’t say that it didn’t stand out to me.

After having certain scenes burned onto the backs of my retinas for 24 hours, I discovered that I wanted to watch more. I could see that Goblin Slayer had a dark twist in what I first expected to be a run-of-the-mill fantasy anime. It had a rare element to its story that I can rarely resist: knowing that all the characters – including the main ones – are in real danger of being badly injured or dying. I can see that no character is ‘untouchable’ in this story, and it intrigues me, much like I was pulled into the gruesome storylines of anime like King’s Game and Juni Taisen. The fact that an anime shocks me, after all the ones I’ve seen over the years, it what never fails to grab my attention.

Unfortunately, I probably should have listened to my more cynical side. What I thought would be some gritty, violent fantasy romp was significantly marred by all the portrayals of women – gratuitous nudity, those overly-large breasts, vacant expressions and dumb naivety. Every time that I felt that the story was redeeming itself, slowly revealing some background of the Goblin Slayer or launching into a tense battle, we have some scenes where a woman is at risk of sexual assault, makes an appealing victim or says something utterly dumb.

But I can’t completely trash Goblin Slayer here. I could argue for a while about whether or not this is a true grimdark fantasy anime or if it’s standard shock material being used cheaply in order to get a reaction. I think it’s a mixture of both, but I won’t go into the details here. After the initial episode, things slow down a little bit whilst we are treated to some world-building and backstory and recover from the mental trauma. The animation is generally good, with the exception of some rough character shots and filler scenes that we start to see creeping in with some of the later episodes, with detailed backgrounds making themselves known as ‘Goblin Slayer-san’ and company traverse the land in search of goblins to exterminate.

I’m still hoping that Goblin Slayer develops this extra dimension that it’s trying to give itself. I’m not completely sold on the story yet as I still think it’s in the background when it comes to some of the gratuitous fanservice, which is disappointing. I’m still waiting for a time when I think “Okay, this is the turning point – this is when all the plot points start coming together”, but at the moment I’m left wanting. What this anime has going for it is the knowledge that the storyline can just turn on you in a moment, upturning everything and hurtling down a different route. I’m hoping we have a similar situation like we did in the first episode (but not quite as graphic in some aspects).

I know also that arguably key points in the story have been omitted or shuffled around for the anime when it comes to Goblin Slayer‘s light novel origins, though there’s little explanation as to why. Despite this it’s still, some might say controversially, one of the most popular anime of the Autumn 2018 season in America, which is certainly food for thought…